The Night time Routine: Wash, Brush, Moisturize

Imagine you had a long day at work. A busy, busy day… phone calls, meetings, an endless to do list and, on top of all, you also solved a work conflict that arose between your colleagues. Bottom line, you are beaten. The only thing you want to do is to get home and take care of your body and soul.

So, let’s start with the body. We all know the importance of a well-groomed body for your general health and wellbeing. But how do we take care of it?

Step 1 – WASH & RELAX!

Prepare yourself a smooth, relaxing bath after you had a long, stressful day. Bubbles, candles, relaxing music in the background and don’t forget to add the magic and special ingredient: a few drops of your favorite essential oil – lavender is known for its relaxing properties, while jasmine helps uplift your mood. Be careful not to add the essential oil directly into the hot water, as it will evaporate immediately. It is best to dilute the essential oil into a spoon of olive oil or another carrier oil and add it into the warm water.

Step 2 – BRUSH & SMILE!

Bygone those days when you were begged to wash your teeth. Now it is part of your daily routine and you are maybe even a bit obsessed about it. Having a pleasant smelling breath and white shinny teeth is not optional anymore. People are more attracted to people with healthy gums and white teeth. So taking care of them is very important. You can add some more “power” to your regular toothpaste by adding some essential oils into your daily routine.

Tea tree and peppermint essential oil are well known for their benefits. To maintain the health of your gums, you can add a drop of tea tree oil on your regular toothpaste and wash gently.

Step 3 – MOISTURIZE & GLOW! 

Last but not least, don’t forget the most important part of your body and the most exposed: your skin needs to be moisturized properly so you can feel awesome at all time. It is known that a good complexion translates into a positive mood and a boost of confidence.

Depending on your skin type, you can use one or more of these essential oils: geranium adds glow to your skin, tea tree fights acne, rose smells divine and lemon brightens up lifeless skin.

Having an evening routine is good also for your mental health as it prepares you for sleep and helps you get into a calmer state of mind. Getting rid of all the stress you accumulate during the day is vital for a healthy body, but also for a healthy soul.

And don’t forget the essential 8 hour of sleep for a rejuvenated body and soul! Sleep tight for a fresh awakening!

Girls tend to learn to use the potty faster than boys

You know how they say that girls mature faster than boys? And, of course, they also tend to grow faster, especially in their adolescence, when for most girls being taller than all boys is the norm. Sure, it’s not a competition, but acknowledging and understanding these differences can really help you in your journey as a parent. And here is one important piece of info from the same category: according to research, girls tend to respond faster to potty training than boys.

According to a study conducted in 2002 from researchers at the Medical College in Winsconsin:

  • Girls start using the potty throughout the day around the age of 2 years and 6 months, while boys get there a bit later – at around 2 years and 9 months.
  • Girls start showing interest in using the potty at around 2 years of age, while boys do that at around 2 years and two months of age.
  • Girls manage to stay dry two hours in a row around the age of 2 years and two months, while boys get to the same performance at around 2 years and 5 months.
  • Girls start to verbally express the need to “go to the toilet” at around 2 years and 2 months, while boys do that at around 2 years and 5 months.

Another study, conducted in Brazil, indicated similar differences:

  • 27.8% of the girls and only 21.4% of the boys completely give up diapers during daytime around 2 years of age, and 10.6% of the girls versus just 6.8% of the boys stop using diapers during nighttime at around the same age.

Now, pediatricians say that the age at which the child learns to use the potty very much depends on the type of potty training the child receives. Be patient, receptive and understanding and your child will get there at his/her own pace!

3 surprisingly simple, effective and safe weight loss diets

Let’s admit it! We all like to cheat! We would love to find a way not to go to work, but get the same salary, not to go to the gym, but be muscular, not to take care of our home but live in a clean and fresh-smelling place. And, of course, we would love to be able to eat anything, at any hour, and still be skinny. So we whine that we’re not as lucky as our friends, that we get fat just by smelling food, that the weight keeps accumulating despite the fact that we’re constantly hungry. But, truth be told, people who are fit work incredibly hard for it. They may not admit or even realize it or we may not be there to see it, but it is the reality. The battle for a fit healthy body is exactly that: a battle! You have to constantly be aware of how much you’re putting into your body versus how much you’re burning. On the bright side, this is probably the easiest time in history to count calories. They’re already written on the packaging and portion control is amazingly simple. That is, or course, if you count out the psychological factor and the power of cravings.

The myth of skinny people who can eat anything

Sure, the basal metabolic rate is not identical from one person to another. It can vary depending on your body size and shape, on the type of activity you’re doing but also you can be naturally advantaged or disadvantaged. To be fair, though, this can’t be used as an excuse either. Some people can indeed have a slightly higher metabolism, but it will usually be still within normal range. So, no, unless they suffer from a serious metabolic disorder (which is obviously, not to be envied), no one can eat anything, in whatever quantities, and remain slim.

Some people may seem to eat a lot because they either eat very slowly, they snack all the time but in very small quantities, they only have one important meal per day or they follow each big meal by a long period of fasting. Or maybe they’re extremely active, so they burn everything they eat. In any case, you should stop blaming your genes for your weight, because they’re most likely innocent.

Getting results fast can be addictive

Although there aren’t really any skinny superheroes among us, who can eat anything and still walk on the podium, it is unfortunately true that we can make nutritional mistakes that can slow down our metabolism.  Yes, we’re talking about crash diets.

Most of us know that these diets presuppose depriving our bodies of essential nutrients, but even so, at first glance they still seem harmless. After all, how much damage can we do to our bodies in just a few days of extreme dieting? The short answer is: a lot! And that partially because there is a danger that extreme dieting can very quickly turn into a way of life. It may seem unintuitive that so many people feel that it’s easier to take these extreme measures and deal with hunger for a few days or even weeks in a row instead of making small changes in their diet and lifestyle every day. But it is the reality of our times and so is the fact that crash diets are becoming more and more popular. People simply do not have the patience or discipline to change their lifestyle and diet and then wait for their bodies to adjust naturally and lose weight gradually and steadily.

The dangers of crash diets cannot be ignored:

A higher risk of cardiovascular diseases

Drastically reducing your daily calorie intake can lead, over time, to cardiac atrophy and it deprives the body of potassium, magnesium, copper and sodium, which causes arrhythmias and can lower blood pressure below the normal limits. These repeated dilatations and contractions damage the blood vessels and increase the risk of atherosclerosis and other cardiovascular diseases.

Metabolic disorders

Leptin is a hormone that plays an important role in regulating appetite and metabolism. A sudden drop in weight causes a sudden drop in leptin levels, which leads to a slowed down metabolism, increased hunger, and the body begins to burn out muscle tissue in order to provide the necessary energy for the body to function. The moment a normal diet is resumed, the body will immediately start to store fat, while your body will no longer have the same muscle mass needed to burn calories, so weight gain will be quick and your body fat percentage will be higher than it was before you started the diet, although your daily calorie intake remained the same. That is to say that you will have to eat less and less and your body will have a higher and higher percentage of fat.

Dehydration

When your body enters starvation mode, it begins to use the glycogen deposits. But, along with glycogen, you’ll also lose water. This not only causes unhealthy and unstainable weight loss – by losing water instead of fat, but also dehydration.

Loss of vitamins and nutrients

Losing a large amount of weight in a very short period of time causes a loss of vitamins and nutrients that are essential for the body to function properly. This can lead to cardiovascular problems, weakening of the immune system, muscle cramps, loss of bone mass and muscle mass, skin, hair and nail damage, but also to depression and anxiety.

Specialists say that a healthy weight loss rate means losing a maximum of two pounds (three, at the most, if you’ve started from a very high body weight) per week. Anything above this affects your body and can have serious repercussions on your health.

Low calorie dieting increases cortisol

A study conducted in 2010 suggested that restricting one’s caloric intake causes damage to psychological wellbeing and biological functioning and it increases the level of cortisol (the „stress hormone”).

3 friendly diets, suited for most modern women

There are hundreds of diets to choose from, but most of them come with disadvantages. They couldn’t be much easier and the results might surprise you.

The yogurt diet

We all watched Terry Crews in Brooklyn Nine-Nine and thought: “that does not look like a guy who eats yogurt!” And yet, “Terry loves his yogurt!” The truth is that yogurt is one of the best foods for diets because it is filling, healthy, very rich in proteins (especially the Greek yogurt and the low-fat varieties) and poor in calories.

Now, it is true that no diet that is based on just one type of food can be called healthy. But if you were to choose just one food to always go to in a diet, that would be yogurt. Yogurt is rich in vitamins and minerals – potassium, phosphorus, calcium, zinc, vitamin B5, vitamin B 2, proteins and probiotics that stimulate the immune system and protect your body against diseases. Because it helps hydrate your body and it contains both proteins and carbs, yogurt also makes an excellent snack for before training.

We’re talking about a hypo-caloric diet, you shouldn’t worry too much about the fat content of the yogurts you’re having, but they should contain around 2% fat. The rules of this diet are very simple: replace as many of your meals and snacks with yogurt. Keep this diet for no longer than 10 days and make sure that, besides the yogurt, you also eat some other healthy foods – lean meat, fresh fruits and veggies, whole grain cereals.

The 1500 calories diet

How much weight you can lose with this diet depends on your current weight, your lifestyle, your height and body shape. This is a reinterpretation of the 1000 calories per day diet, one that takes into consideration the main concern of the nutritionists regarding the original version: unless they are under strict medical supervision, no woman should eat less that 1200 calories per day and no man should eat less than 1500 calories each day. Otherwise, your body cannot possibly get all the nutrients it needs, so you’ll feel fatigued, unable to work out and your metabolism will slow down. Also, thirsty for energy, your body will start to burn muscles.

The 1500 calories diet is based on the same concept as the 1000 calories diet – reducing the number of calories that you introduce into your body daily – but proposes a slightly different system, one that does not put your health or wellbeing in danger. The rules of this diet are extremely simple: you will consume at least 1200 calories per day and a maximum of 1500, depending on how much weight you want to loose and how fast, but also depending on your body’s needs, your height and your current weight. That 300 calorie margin per day can also be considered a loophole for those moments when you feel you’re about to give up.

As you would expect, those 1200-1500 calories should come from healthy, fresh foods, rich in nutrients. And, actually, if you decide to go with this diet, you’ll see that soon enough you’ll feel the need yourself to introduce in your daily menu more fruits and veggies because they are low in calories, but makes you feel satiated. Ideally, your breakfast should have around 300-400 calories and your lunch and dinner around 500 calories each. If you’re creative enough to go even lower than that, you can, of course, also have some snacks in between.

Give up just one food!

When it comes to food, we all have a weakness. For me it may be chocolate, for you it might be donuts and for another person it can be beer. The nutritionists say that in most cases these foods bring 0 benefits for our body and health, but they significantly contribute to our weight. So be honest with yourself and try to identify what it is for you. Need help? The food or drink we’re talking about should have the following characteristics: 1. It significantly contributes (usually by a few hundreds) to the number of calories you have daily; 2. It doesn’t have any nutritional value; 3. It makes you feel guilty anytime you have it.

In most cases, it will be something sweet. But it can also be a fatty food or a greasy salty snack. Once you’ve identified it, eliminate it completely from your diet and, very important, do not replace it with anything else.

Why You Need to Change Your Pillows More Often than You Think

How often do you think you need to change your pillows? Once a year? Every other year? Read along, the answer might surprise you!

Your body sheds hundreds of thousands of dead cells every hour. And when you sleep, most of the dead skin, hair follicles, sweat and sebum that your body produces end up on your pillow and linens. Actually, studies found that up to a third of the weight of an old pillow can be made out of dead skin, dust mites (microscopic bugs that feed primarily on skin cells shed by humans and their pets) and their feces. And this is just one aspect of the problem. The really bad news is that old pillows are not just gross, but they can also contain microorganisms that are potentially dangerous for your health.

So how often should you replace your pillows?

The cover of your pillow should be changed as often as you change the linens. The pillow itself should be washed (either in the washing machine, if that’s possible, of dry cleaned) every three months. But even so, do not keep your pillow, any pillow, for more than one year. And if you have allergies, you’ll need to buy a new one every six months.

According to a report by South Tees Hospitals NHS Foundation trust, “The interior filling for pillows and duvets is an efficient incubator of micro-organisms if contamination occurs. Bedding material may become colonised with bacteria and become a reservoir of infection.” And while this study focused mainly on the pillows, linens and mattresses that were used in hospitals, many of the conclusions also stand for the pillows we use at home.

In another study conducted in 2004 in the UK, 10 pillows aged between 1.5 and 20 years (+) were analysed for the presence of fungi. Aspergillus fumigatus was found in 10 of the pillows, Aureobasidium pullulans in 6 and Rhodotorula mucilaginosa in 6. Plus, a number of other 47 species were isolated. The researchers drew attention to the fact that this finding has significant implications for patients with respiratory disease and especially asthma and sinusitis.

Our pillows are like sponges that absorb out bodily fluids and create the perfect moist environment for bacteria such as E.coli to grow. They can harbour thousands of dangerous microorganisms that can cause infections of the respiratory system or of the urinary tract. And the best way to protect ourselves is to take the single most effective measure – change them as often as possible.

And, if not for anything else, change your pillow often for an overall sense of wellbeing and a good night’s sleep! Many people have reported falling asleep faster in clean sheets. “We’ve looked a lot at how medical and behavioral issues affect sleep, but we really hadn’t looked at the sleep environment in such depth. […] Frankly, we were surprised to see that senses like touch, feel, and smell were so important”, said NSF Chief Operating Officer David Cloud for WebMD, referring to the results of a survey commissioned by the National Sleep Foundation which suggested that people sleep better when their bedrooms are comfortable and clean.

A similar recommendation can be found in the traditional Chinese medicine, which considers that pillows must be replaced every 1-2 years because all our negative feelings and thoughts tend to accumulate in their deep layers, causing sleep disorders, insomnia and even anxiety and depression.

How about the linens?

In an article for Tech Insider, Philip Tierno, a microbiologist and pathologist at the New York University School of Medicine said that in our linens we “have spores of fungi, bacteria, animal dander, pollen, soil, lint, finishing agents of whatever the sheets are made from, coloring material, all sorts of excrements from the body including sweat, sputum, vaginal, and anal excretions, urine milieu, skin cells … […] Plus there are cosmetics that people use — they put oils and creams on their body, all of that is in that milieu. […] including food by the way, people eat in the bed. That of course provides a nice environment for these organisms.”

He added that dust mite feces and debris are allergens that can cause stuffy nose, exacerbate allergies and aggravate asthma.

So how often should we wash our bed sheets (and pillow covers included)? On average, once a week or at the most every other week. Use hot water (140-150 degrees Fahrenheit) and a hot dryer cycle to make sure you kill all germs.

Some tips on protecting your pillows and linens from harmful bacteria

  • Always use a pillow cover and change it weekly.
  • Wash your pillow cover and linens at high temperatures. Most bacteria die at 150 degrees Fahrenheit.
  • If you have allergies, use a hypoallergenic pillow and a hypoallergenic pillow cover.
  • In summer, take your pillows out in the sun and leave them for a couple of hours. This will kill at least part of the bacteria and fungi.
  • Spray your pillow, mattress and sheets with a mix of water and essential oils! Tea Tree, Eucalyptus, Citronella and Lavender not only smell amazing, but they also have antibacterial properties and they are natural fungicides. When sprayed on your pillow and sheets, essential oils such as Lavender can also help you sleep better. For this purpose, you can also drip some essential oil on a cotton ball and put in into your pillow case.

How to avoid winter slips and falls

The first rule we should all follow in order to avoid accidents in winter is to stay at home whenever the roads are icy and slippery. That because sprains, fractures and contusions happen far more often in winter due to the ice and snow. Older people are especially vulnerable, but children and adults are at risk also. However, for most of us staying indoors whenever the weather is bad is just an unreachable luxury. So we often have to face our fears, take the risk, and start walking, no matter the weather. But even then, there are some precautions you can take to minimize the chances of an injury as much as possible.

What are the risks?

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than one out of four older people falls each year. This translates into millions of people falling each year. Why is this of concern? Because:

  • One out of five falls causes a serious injury such as broken bones or a head injury.
  • Over 800,000 patients a year are hospitalized because of a fall injury, most often because of a head injury or hip fracture.
  • Each year at least 300,000 older people are hospitalized for hip fractures.
  • More than 95% of hip fractures are caused by falling, usually by falling sideways.
  • Falls are the most common cause of traumatic brain injuries (TBI).
  • Falls can cause broken bones, like wrist, arm, ankle, and hip fractures.
  • Falls can cause head injuries. These can be very serious, especially if the person is taking certain medicines (like blood thinners). An older person who falls and hits their head should see their doctor right away to make sure they don’t have a brain injury.
  • Many people who fall, even if they’re not injured, become afraid of falling. This fear may cause a person to cut down on their everyday activities. When a person is less active, they become weaker and this increases their chances of falling.
  • In 2015, the total medical costs for falls totaled more than $50 billion. Medicare and Medicaid shouldered 75% of these costs.

Among the risk factors that contribute to falling in winter, CDC mentions:

  • Lower body weakness
  • Vitamin D deficiency
  • Difficulties with walking and balance
  • Use of medicines, such as tranquilizers, sedatives, or antidepressants. Even some over-the-counter medicines can affect balance and how steady you are on your feet.
  • Vision problems
  • Foot pain or poor footwear

Also, keep in mind that most falls are caused by a combination of risk factors, each factor added to the equation significantly increasing the chances of falling.

Tips for avoiding winter slips and falls

Leave 10-15 minutes earlier than you normally would

This way you won’t have to hurry and the slower and more careful you go, the slimmer are the chances of an injury. As a bonus, you avoid arriving late because of the bad weather.

Wear winter slip-proof boots

You can pack your “normal” shoes and, if you follow the previous step, you’ll have enough time to change for any occasion. But when walking on slippery surfaces it’s important that you wear shoes with soft, rubbery soles and avoid shoes with plastic soles and especially high heels.

Use your hands to maintain balance

Avoid carrying bags in your hands (use a backpack instead), don’t drink your coffee while walking, don’t talk on the phone and wear gloves so that you can keep your hands out of your pockets. Hands are very important for maintaining your balance and they can also protect your body if you do fall.

Walk like a penguin

Take little steps, look in front of you, extend your hands on one side of your body and the other for balance and lean the torso slightly forward so that the centre of gravity is on the front leg.

Climb stairs side ways

Walk sideways on the stairs. Put one leg on the first stair and bring the other one next to it, then repeat for the following stair. The key is to avoid to cross your legs, as this position is highly unstable.

Hold on to railing

If usually you tend to avoid handrails, in winter they should become your best friends, especially when walking up or down the stairs.

Be careful how you get out of the car

Whether you get out of your car or a bus or other means of public transport, you should be extra careful when putting your leg down. Your leg’s position and the way pressure falls on it tend to increase the risk of slipping and falling.

Watch out for surprises

Don’t relax the moment you’ve entered the building. The traces of melted snow left behind by the others can create a highly slippery surface.

Learn how to fall

It might sound weird, but this can save you from a serious injury. If you’re tense, the risk of a sprain or a fracture increases. Try to relax and work with gravity instead of acting against it. If you slip, allow yourself to fall gently on your buttocks.

Here are some additional recommendations by CDC:

Talk to Your Doctor

  • Ask your doctor or healthcare provider to evaluate your risk for falling and talk with them about specific things you can do.
  • Ask your doctor or pharmacist to review your medicines to see if any might make you dizzy or sleepy. This should include prescription medicines and over-the counter medicines.
  • Ask your doctor or healthcare provider about taking vitamin D supplements.

Do Strength and Balance Exercises

Do exercises that make your legs stronger and improve your balance. Tai Chi is a good example of this kind of exercise.

Have Your Eyes Checked

Have your eyes checked by an eye doctor at least once a year, and be sure to update your eyeglasses if needed. If you have bifocal or progressive lenses, you may want to get a pair of glasses with only your distance prescription for outdoor activities, such as walking. Sometimes these types of lenses can make things seem closer or farther away than they really are.

Feng Shui tips for your bathroom

Feng Shui is the art or harmonizing the energies in any give space. To put it simply, arranging your home properly can bring good fortune to those who live in it, while “bad Feng Shui” can potentially bring misfortune.  But these basic principles of Feng Shui are certainly nothing new to you. What might surprise you, though, is that there is a room in your home that could greatly benefit from the positive energy… and it probably does not. Many articles and Feng Shui books completely ignore the bathroom, which is considered to be somewhat a negative place, where energy gets lost, and which should best be isolated from the rest of our home. Through the pipes the energy can drain, and Feng Shui aims at recirculating the energy throughout your home, not let it go to waste.

Well, this might have been true in the past (and keep in mind that Feng Shui is a thousands of years old art), when the bathroom was only used for our daily necessities. Lately, though, it has become a room for relaxation and wellness, the place we go to when we want to unwind – either by taking a long hot bath, enjoying a hydro massage or pampering our skin with a nourishing amazingly smelling mask. And, before running to buy a bathroom chandelier and a Swarovski engraved lavatory, first think about the best ways to minimize the loss of energy and transform your bathroom into a vibrant space, dedicated to wellbeing and relaxation. Here are some useful tips and tricks:

Save the energy!

How to prevent energy from draining out of your bathroom? It’s quite simple! Use a drain stopper for the bathtub and the sink. If you have a shower curtain, keep it closed at all time. The toilet lid should also stay closed – for Feng Shui reasons, but also for health reasons. According to Charles Gerba, PhD, a professor of microbiology at University of Arizona in Tucson, quoted by www.webmd.com, flushing the toilet with the lid up is not wise. “Polluted water vapor erupts out of the flushing toilet bowl and it can take several hours for these particles to finally settle — not to mention where,” he says. “If you have your toothbrush too close to the toilet, you are brushing your teeth with what’s in your toilet.”

Also, if your bathroom door is facing the entry door, keep the bathroom door closed at all time. The energy you have when entering your home is extremely important and should not be lost whenever you walk through the door.

The bathroom door should also stay closed if you can see the toilet from your bed. Watching the toilet is never pleasant and it’s important that you focus on something nice/inspiring/relaxing before going to sleep.

For obvious reasons, you should also keep the bathroom door closed at all times if your bathroom is very close to your kitchen.

Balance the water element with some earth

In the bathroom the water element predominates, through the water in the pipes and the mirrors (which also represent water), so you need to balance it by adding the earth element. You can do that by using darker, earthy colors, terracotta accessories, fluffy towels and carpets in the colors of earth.

Hang a crystal from the ceiling

Now is the moment to think about that chandelier. However, if a crystal chandelier is too much for your taste, just hang a simple crystal from the ceiling. It will help guide the energy upwards instead of letting it drain down the pipes. Also, crystals are used in Feng Shui to bring balance.

Light candles

It’s a great way to bring the fire element to your bathroom, fire being believed to have the ability to keep negative energies under control. For instance, you can use a ceramic diffuser and enjoy your favorite essential oils at the same time with harmonizing the energy in your bathroom by bringing together all the elements.

Fight negative energy

Place wind chimes in the North-Est and South-West areas of your bathroom. The sounds they produce help dispel negative energy. However, do not overdo it! Avoid buying wind chimes that are very complex, colorful or painted with various symbols. Opt for the simplest ones you can find.

Other useful Feng Shui tips:

  • The bathroom floor should not be higher than the rest of the house.
  • Besides earthy colors, the best colors to use in your bathroom are blue and green. They attract peacefulness and prosperity.
  • Decorate your bathroom as you would any other room. Use paintings, decorative items and anything that makes you want to spend more time there.
  • Keep your bathroom clean and organized at all times. Use baskets, wooden boxes and anything that helps you better organize the (usually) small bathroom space.

10 Tips for Amateur Gardeners

“Gardening can be a great way to enjoy the outdoors, get physical activity, beautify the community, and grow nutritious fruits and vegetables.” And though we completely agree with everything, it’s not us who said it, but the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (check out their page on Gardening Health and Safety Tips).

If you’re reading this article, you most likely by now know about the benefits of gardening for the health of your body and mind. But let’s go through them one more time. According to several studies, gardening has mood-boosting benefits, it is a healthy form of aerobic exercise, it decreases the risk of dementia, it increases hand coordination and strength (which is important especially in older people), it boosts the immune system and gets you that necessary daily dose of vitamin D. There is even an article from NASA focusing on the beneficial effects of gardening on improving feelings of isolation, loneliness and stress, which are common in astronauts who are part of long-duration missions in space.

Ready to get back to your plants? Just hang on for a few more lines. We’re going through some useful tips and tricks that every gardener should know and use.

  1. Be creative with your pots

You don’t have enough pots for your seedlings? No problem! Improvise! You can use citrus peels (cut the lemons or the oranges in half and use a spoon to remove the pulp without breaking the peel; you can also use pomelo peels as permanent pots for smaller plants), any metal or plastic cups, or even egg shells. Pierce a hole at the bottom of your pots to drain excess water and you’re good to go!

2. Protect your tools

Don’t let your tools get rusty – literally. To protect your gardening tools, put them in a clay or terracotta pot filed with sand mixed with mineral oil.

3. Protect your plants while you’re away

If your plants are planted directly in the ground, they will probably be just fine for a week or so, even if it doesn’t rain. The roots can reach the deeper soil layers of the ground. If they’re in pots, you can improvise a simple homemade system to keep the soil moist. Roll a paper towel and put one end of it on the ground, in the pot, and the other one in a glass of water. The paper towel will gradually absorb the water and distribute it to the plant.

4. Get more plants for free

You can grow more plants from basil, thyme, mint, oregano, lavender, lemon, sage or rosemary simply by cutting some branches and holding them in a glass of water until they grow some roots. Then just plant them and you’ll have a new bunch of plants without any extra expense!

5. Repel mosquitos and house flies

If you want to get rid of mosquitos and house flies, plant basil, lavender, mint, rosemary, citronella, lemon balm, marigolds, peppermint and geranium! They smell and look great and they are the best known natural bug repellents.

6. Contain your plants

Some plants tend to grow large roots, which can affect the other plants around them. A simple solution for this is to remove the bottom of a plastic pot (use one that has some depth), put your plant in it and bury the pot in the ground. This will give you control over the size of the root system of your plant.

7. Use milk as a fertilizer

The proteins, vitamins, calcium and sugars in milk are beneficial for plant growth. Just be careful when you “feed” them! Milk can stimulate the growth of bacteria and it can stain the leaves. Mix a cup of water with a cup of milk, spray your plants with it, wait for a few minutes then wipe all the leaves that haven’t absorbed the solution.

8. Prevent mold

To prevent mold from forming in your pots, all around your plant, mix together some crushed eggshells and coffee and sprinkle them on the ground.

9. Try a homemade fertilizer with egg shells, banana peels and Epsom salt

Banana peels contain potassium, phosphorus, calcium, manganese, sodium, and magnesium, which are essential for plant growth. Epsom salt is also rich in magnesium and sulphur and the egg shells contain high quantities of calcium. For this recipe you will need 4-5 banana peels, 2-3 egg shells and 1 spoon of Epsom salt.

Leave the banana peels and the egg shells in the sun and let them dry. When they’re completely dry, crush them into a fine powder. Add the Epsom salt. This quantity is sufficient for approximately 33 fl oz of water. Put the water and the powder in a spray bottle, mix thoroughly, and then fertilize your plants. Do not spray the leaves, but just the soil around the plant.

10. Keep it clean

To prevent the soil from escaping the pots through the holes at the bottom of your pot, you can put a coffee filter inside each pot, underneath the soil. This will still allow the water to drain, but will keep the soil in.